UK ad industry claims victory as Swedes back down on alcohol ads

The UK advertising industry says a European court ruling, which cast doubt on the legality of Sweden’s ban on alcohol advertising, is a landmark in the battle to eradicate national barriers to advertisers.

In a case brought by food magazine Gourmet, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Swedish legislation – which bans the advertising of spirits, wine and strong beer – was an obstacle to the free movement of services within the European Union (EU).

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), which represents the interests of more than 300 UK advertisers, says the ruling could now be used to challenge other national restrictions on advertising, such as the ban on toy advertising in Greece and Germany’s strict rules on sales promotion.

ISBA director of public affairs Ian Twinn says: “It is a landmark but it is not the end of the war. This is about the freedom to advertise. The Swedes, Greeks and French have in place absolute bans and restrictions to advertisers.

“This ruling potentially lifts those bans by giving advertisers the protection of the Treaty of Rome by saying there should be free movement of services.”

Advertising Association director general Andrew Brown adds: “These national bans are restricting the development of a single market for services which we will continue to press for. This ruling will be a helpful addition to our armour.”

The advertising industry had feared that Sweden, which currently holds the six-month presidency of the EU, would push for a more protectionist approach to marketing to be taken up elsewhere in the EU.

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